If life in London is going downhill, why is Sadiq Khan on course for a third term?

By Lord Ashcroft

 Most Londoners think life in the capital is getting worse and many think they have little to show for Sadiq Khan’s seven years in the Mayor’s office – so why, with six months to go, does he seem to be cruising to re-election? My latest polling of nearly 3,500 Londoners, together with focus groups around the capital, helps explain.

We found four areas in which Londoners were more likely to think things were improving than deteriorating: public transport, entertainment and leisure, arts and culture, and the city’s environment, such as green spaces (more…)

Sadiq Khan is not unpopular but Londoners wonder what he has to show for 8 years in City Hall

By Lord Ashcroft

This article was first published in the London Evening Standard.

Ask thousands of Londoners about Sadiq Khan’s time as Mayor, as I have done over the last few weeks, and you might conclude he would struggle to be re-elected.

Though most would rather be here than anywhere else they can think of, many feel that life in the capital is going downhill. Hair-raising stories about crime have become commonplace in areas once considered safe and peaceful (“I’ve been mugged five times in broad daylight, once at knifepoint,” an old lady told us in a Muswell Hill focus group. “But I’m an easy target because I walk with a stick.”) People complain that traffic is worse, not because of the volume of cars but due to an irritating web of road closures and parking restrictions apparently designed to rake in revenue from exorbitant fines rather than ease congestion. Housing is so scarce that renters are compelled to snap up flats without a viewing. In the outer boroughs, people feel the less desirable aspects of inner London life creeping closer to home – not least ULEZ.

My poll found that in general, the more people care about an issue, the lower they rate Khan’s performance on it (more…)

Divided America is set to be embroiled in even more acrimony

By Lord Ashcroft

This article was first published in the Mail on Sunday.

The genius of the American political system is that the parties spend a year seeking the most accomplished, energetic, thoughtful, trustworthy, competent and generally impressive individuals they can find, before pitting them against each other ahead of an election for the highest office in the land.

At least, that is the theory.

So how is it that, as things stand, the US is heading for a rematch between a stumbling, rambling octogenarian and a man facing 91 criminal charges?

Believe it or not, the campaign for the presidential election in November next year is not really about Donald Trump or Joe Biden, or anyone else – apart from the voters.


Biden v. Trump: Why is America heading for the rematch no-one seems to want?

By Lord Ashcroft

This is an edited version of my presentation this week at the E2 Summit in Utah.

With just over a year to the next presidential election, Donald Trump has a commanding lead in Republican primary polls and Joe Biden insists he’s not going anywhere. How is it that, as things stand, the country is heading for a contest that hardly anyone seems to want? My latest research – a 20,000-sample poll together with focus groups in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Arizona – points us to the answer (more…)

The State We’re In

By Lord Ashcroft

“Britain is broken – people are getting poorer, nothing seems to work properly, and we need big changes to the way the country works, whichever party is in government.” In my latest polling, an extraordinary 72% agreed with this statement, including more than half of 2019 Conservative voters. Only just over one in five opted took the alternative view that “there will always be problems that need sorting out, but there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the way the country works.”

Many thinkers of various stripes agree: economists, including those on the Growth Commission established by Liz Truss, consider the urgent question of how to improve Britain’s sluggish productivity. Many others on the centre-right – not least those contributing to ConHome’s project on reducing demand for government – worry about an allied problem: that the state itself has become too big, expensive and burdensome, and that the Tories should make it their mission to rein it in.

This is a recurring theme in Conservative thought, and with good reason. But it’s easy to take the arguments for a smaller state for granted, and assume they are self-evident to everyone. At least as dangerous, politically, is the temptation to think in terms of theory when voters think almost exclusively in terms of practice. I therefore wanted to find out how people saw the questions at stake in this debate – about the tax burden, business regulation, spending and public services, the role of the state itself, and how they reacted to the low-tax, small-state agenda (more…)

Broken Britain has to be fixed – regardless of whether Rishi or Keir is PM

By Lord Ashcroft

This article was first published in the Mail on Sunday.

After 13 years of Conservative government, things were not supposed to look like this. Strikes, inflation, record NHS waiting lists, a sluggish economy and apparently uncontrollable migration point to a country where things are going wrong. Covid and Ukraine sound increasingly like excuses, not explanations.

But people sense more than an administration running out of steam after a bruising stint in office. I found more than seven in ten agreeing that Britain is broken and needs big changes, whichever party is in charge.

Political and economic sages debate how to boost the dismal rates of productivity that hold the country back compared to its more prosperous peers. For many Conservative thinkers, pondering the party’s direction in a new term of government (or, as many expect, in opposition), the problem is the state itself. Recent Tory governments – prompted by Covid and a desire to show suspicious voters that austerity was over – have spent, taxed and borrowed at a rate that would have made Gordon Brown blush; these critics argue that government has grown too big, tries to do too much, and so imposes an excessive burden on business, workers and families.

There is a lot to be said for this view: allowing governments to consume ever more of our national income is a recipe for economic and social decline. But as Mrs. Thatcher’s Tories understood in 1979, any attempt to reverse the trend has to start not with economic theory, but with people (more…)

“I can do this, and I’ll do it again if you don’t buck up your ideas”: My focus groups in Somerton, Selby and Uxbridge

By Lord Ashcroft

Last week we held focus groups with wavering former Conservative voters as they prepare to go to the polls in Thursday’s by-elections: in Wincanton, in the heart of the Somerton & Frome constituency; at the South Ruislip end of the Uxbridge seat; and in Selby.

People in all three places had a pretty clear view about the unorthodox circumstances giving rise to the contests. Nigel Adams “didn’t get his honours, did he? So he threw his toys out of the pram and said right, that’s it.” David Warburton “took way too long to step down… It’s a little bit naughty of the Conservatives to let it go on for so long. I think they tried to let it die down because there was so much going on elsewhere” (though there was some sympathy: “He had to stand down, but he had a really rough ride from the parliament people… It sounds like he’s been gagged from saying anything about the harassment allegations. I mean, people can forgive the odd snort of cocaine these days, but the sexual allegations were the real meat of the scandal and we’re none the wiser about what happened, if anything at all” (more…)

The longer the circus continues, the harder the Conservative case will be to make: my presentation to the IDU Forum in London

By Lord Ashcroft

This is an edited version of the presentation I gave yesterday to the International Democrat Union Forum in London.


To begin with, a very brief history of British politics since the general election of 2019, at which the Conservatives under Boris Johnson won an 80-seat majority. This was their biggest victory for more than 30 years, and saw the party win seats which had never before had a Tory MP (more…)

Rishi’s Race Against Time

By Lord Ashcroft

This article first appeared in the Mail on Sunday.

Imagine an energetic new prime minister taking office at a time of huge domestic and international pressure. Many like his calm, businesslike approach to tackling the nation’s ills – the result of seismic global events and his predecessors’ blunders – and are willing to give him time to get to grips with them. After all, he has a whole parliament in which to sort things out.

This would be a fair description of Rishi Sunak’s situation were it not for some rather crucial details: that he doesn’t have a whole term to impress the voters, but something over a year; and that the four predecessors whom voters largely blame for the state of the country were all from his party. In that sense, Sunak faces a race against time, on two fronts. One is the months he has left to turn things around and show that Britain is on the right track; the other is the 13 years of Conservative-led government that voters are considering as the next election approaches.

In my latest research we found a good deal of sympathy for Sunak’s predicament, in the sense that the problems he faces are not of his making. But as people were only too ready to point out, just because something isn’t the government’s fault doesn’t mean it isn’t its responsibility to solve (more…)

Many assume Boris would lose a by-election in Uxbridge… but would he?

By Lord Ashcroft

The Commons Privileges Committee is expected to publish its conclusions on whether Boris Johnson misled parliament over the partygate affair in the early summer. Depending on its findings, the Committee could recommend Johnson’s suspension from parliament, which could, if approved by the House of Commons, lead to a recall motion and a by-election in his constituency – culminating, his detractors assume, in an ignominious defeat and the end of his political career.

My latest poll suggests they shouldn’t be so sure. Our survey of the Uxbridge & South Ruislip seat completed on Friday suggests he would win a by-election tomorrow with 50% of the vote, with Labour’s Danny Beales on 33% and Liberal Democrat Blaise Baquiche a distant third on 6%, a single point ahead of the Greens (more…)